Watch what you wear while driving

What do belts, boots and recycling have in common? Your first guess may have something to do with getting rid of old clothing. The answer we were looking for is winter driving and what you wear.

The arrival of Old Man Winter brings with it a number of driving challenges. Among them is the importance of buckling up, and ensuring we can see properly. These two factors are important year-round, but take on added significance in winter, when a number of factors sneak up on us. We all know the proper way to wear seat belts, and to properly install a child seat – along with the youngsters in it. But with winter, and several additional layers of clothing, the scene changes.

Child seat occupants deserve your attention

With respect to child seats, it is quite common to bundle your little joy in many layers of bulky warm material to protect them from the bitter cold. Take a moment to take stock:

1) – does that added bulk change the way they are positioned in the seat?

2) – does it raise their head and or neck to a point where they might be hurt in a crash?

3) – does the belt still hold them firmly in place?

Remember, the forces of a crash will severely compress that bulky material. Obviously the same holds true for a booster seat. Does the added clothing position the youngster differently?

Bulky clothes compress in a crash

Now take stock of your own situation, and that of others in the vehicle with you. Do you fasten your belts around the outside of a bulky ski jacket? Does that mean the belt will ride up in a crash above the protection of your pelvis and unto the softer parts of your abdomen? What about the shoulder belt? Has it been repositioned to a point where it will no longer be effective? Don’t just look at the belts as they are fastened over the clothing. Give them a firm tug and take time to figure out where they will contact the body under the violence of a crash.

Boots are handy for keeping your feet warm and for walking in deep snow or slush. But they can also change the way your feet interact with the pedals. It will come as no surprise to learn that snow and ice are slippery. But how often have you thought about what would happen if some of that slippery stuff got between your foot and the brake pedal?

Sure it will melt off when the vehicle gets warm enough – but until then, it can pose a serious risk. And don’t forget that after it melts into a little puddle directly beneath your feet and the pedal. It will freeze into a nice little frozen and slippery ice pack when the vehicle is left out in the cold – waiting for your next visit.

If you have large feet, take a moment to check whether or not your footwear comes into contact with the bottom of the instrument panel and/or any suspended or low wires etc.

Big boots can cause probloems

Recycling can also be referred to, as re-use and that is what you are doing when you have your ventilation system in the re-circulate position – re-using the air in the vehicle. While this may go a long way toward getting heat more quickly, it will also cause you to remove oxygen from that air and insert moisture with each breath. Before you know it your windows are fogged up, as that moist air comes into contact with the cold glass. You are probably also getting groggy from the lack of oxygen.

Only use the recirculate position for the first few minutes. Once you see any movement at all on the temperature gauge, switch over to fresh outside air – your windows and your friends, and family will appreciate it.

Allow a minute or two extra in winter for even the shortest drive. Use that time after starting the engine to clean ALL that snow off the roof, windows, hood, trunk and away from the lights. Take a moment to clean the lights with some of that snow. A quick walk around to ensure those four winter tires are properly inflated and you’re ready to get in.


About Richard 166 Articles
At the age of five I was already obsessed with all things automotive being able to identify the make and model of car by just the sound of its engine going down the street in front of our house in the small town on the south shore of Nova Scotia. Although I have been covering and writing about the automotive scene for more than 40 years and the light still grows brightly.